Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas specials you may have forgotten

These shows just don't get shown 24-7 like "A Christmas Story." Which ones do you remember?

--The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas. (1973) Casey Kasem narration! Tommy Smothers as Ted E. Bear!

--The Glo Friends Save Christmas (1985). Remember that Glo-Worm toy? Yeah. Featuring the voices of "All in the Family" stars Carroll O'Connor and Sally Struthers. Watch it online.

--He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985). Perhaps the best title of the bunch. Awesomeness. Just try to follow the plot summary at Wikipedia. That thing's as complicated as Ulysses.

--Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. (1977) Rankin/Bass greatness! Yet somehow not nearly a famous as Rudolph and crew.

--Ziggy's Gift. (1982) Look, has Ziggy ever been funny or witty? Yet this thing won a Emmy. Also, the Wikipedia summary was apparently translated from the Bulgarian or something. Actual line: "Ziggy lets the cat know the fealling his mutchle but the cat is need at the poor famlys house more."

--Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Great Christmas Caper. (1978) Raggedy Ann must have had a slight comeback in the 1970s. I had and loved the doll and had a couple of the Johnny Gruelle storybooks, too. Wholesome yet somehow mischievious, I loved her. That said, I don't ever remember seeing this special, which includes the encasing of toys in something called "gloopstick."

--A Snow White Christmas. (1980) Do not remember this AT ALL. Was it even shown in this country? Snow White and KING Charming have a daughter, also named Snow White, with snow white hair?

--The Night The Animals Talked. (1970). Kind of a cult fave. Apparently passed around on bootleg tapes like The Star Wars Holiday Special, only, you know, not as crappy.

--The House Without a Christmas Tree. (1970) Aw, I loved these Gail Rock books, in part because they were written by a "Gail" and my name was just not that common. But also, who couldn't love Addie, when her dad blames her for killing her mom and won't let her have a Christmas tree, and then she wins one at school? There were other holiday books (The Thanksgiving Treasure, Addie and the King of Hearts) and all were awesome.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Playing in the snow

Brrrr -- all this crazy snow across the country got us thinking about playing outside in the stuff when we were little. Our moms would pile on the layers: Shirts and sweaters, snowsuits and scarves -- no wonder once we got all bundled up we spent hours building elaborate snow forts with tunnels that stretched for blocks or sledding down hills until it got so dark we couldn't see our mittened-hands in front of our faces. It was just too much of a hassle to go back inside for a break.

This classic clip from "A Christmas Story" pretty much sums up what it was like to be a kid in a cold-weather state.

From bright red earlobes to frozen snot to getting my chin split open when a giant icicle dropped from the roof onto my face like a dagger, playing outside on the frozen tundra of Minnesota was full of memories for me -- most of them painful. How about you?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Three oddball Christmas songs from the 1980s

The 1980s had more than their share of original Christmas songs. You hear them on the radio to this day, but something about them throws me right back to that goofy decade. Here are three.

1) Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.
Actually recorded in 1979, but close enough. This was one of those songs that was funny the first couple times you heard it, but later made you want to take the kid who kept singing it outside and make sure SHE got run over by a reindeer. (It had its own TV special in 2000, but Grandma didn't die.)

Best line: "You can say there's no such thing as Santa! But as for me and Grandpa, we believe."

2) Christmas Wrapping
Aw, I love The Waitresses (Square pegs, square pegs, square, square pegs!). This song makes me a little sad, because lead singer Patty Donahue died in 1996 at age 40 after battling lung cancer for a year. Much too short a life. The song sketches out a story that everyone can relate to, really painting a picture. I have in my head the image of the exact store that the song ends in--to me it's a little neighborhood place behind my old apartment in Minneapolis.

Best lines:
"I'm spending this one alone," he said.
"Need a break; this year's been crazy."
I said, "Me too, but why are you?
You mean you forgot cranberries too?"

3) Christmas in Hollis
Not only catchy, but appears in the Christmas-set "Die Hard" (1988) as well as 1996's "Jingle All the Way." Talk about Christmas rapping. And now Rev Run is a reality show star. As a Midwestern white kid, I didn't know where Hollis was and never had collard greens, but chicken, rice, stuffing and mac and cheese sounded like a damn fine holiday meal.

Best lines: "It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens,
Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens.
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese,
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bob and Doug McKenzie's "12 Days of Christmas"

Good day, eh? Now that we're well into the 12 days of Christmas (let's see -- we're expecting four calling birds to show up on our doorstep any minute now), it's time to reflect on one of our favorite versions of the classic tune, sung by those hosers from the Great White North, Bob and Doug McKenzie.

Because what's more awesome than getting Canadian stuff like this from your true love? "Four pounds of back bacon, three French toast, two turtlenecks and a beer"? Here's a link to all the lyrics.

Here's an animated version of the tune:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Lesser-Known Rudolph Specials

We all know the most classic Rankin/Bass Christmas shows: "Rudolph," "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," "Year Without a Santa Claus." (I'm happy to report that my just-turned-four-year-old has been indoctrinated into the Cult of Heat Miser and Snow Miser, by the way. I didn't know what to expect -- they're kind of freaky -- but she took to the little guys right away. She's less enthused about Rudolph -- go figure.)

But have you checked out the second tier of Rudolph specials? Last weekend I caught a bit of two that I hadn't seen in years: "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" and "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July."

Together, these two contain some phenomenal nuggets of nostalgia, including appearances by Red Buttons, Ethel Merman, Shelley Winters, Morey Amsterdam and Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin. They're worth it for the voice talent alone. But then you add the odd plots -- Rudolph teams with a caveman, a knight and Ben Franklin to go find Baby New Year, for instance -- and you've got yourself some must-see holiday TV right there.

Check out some clips, and decide for yourself whether these hold up against the more popular stop-action specials:

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Star Wars Holiday Special

It's Christmastime, and that can only mean one thing: Nah, forget eggnog, Rudolph and the Grinch. It's time for the "Star Wars Holiday Special"!

The prospect of this 1978 TV gem was enough to make our light sabers tingle with glee — a bonus chapter of the tale as we eagerly waited for the Empire to strike back. In reality, though, it was a disaster of intergalactic proportions. The plot, such as it was, focused on Chewbacca’s family — his wife Mala, son Lumpy, and freakish (and, no doubt, flea-ridden and stinky) father Itchy — as they waited for Chewie to return home.

The original Star Wars gang made perfunctory appearances, including an overly made-up Mark Hamill and a stumbly Carrie Fisher. And it all spiraled even further into surreal territory when Bea Arthur, Art Carney, and Harvey Korman showed up. The special was so embarrassing that it only aired once.

If you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And as an extra little stocking stuffer, have you seen this? The guys at GamerVision put together their own awesome take on Christmas in Star Wars land. Definitely worth checking out.

From all of us at GenXtinct, happy holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas catalogs

Update: Don't know how I forgot this the first time, but you've simply gotta check out Jason Liebig's awesome Wishbook Web. Warning: Be prepared to spend hours -- he has entire catalogs from our youth online.

Do kids even use Christmas catalogs any more? Or do they get all their gift ideas from TV and the Internet and, I dunno, random texts from online strangers.

We LOVED our Christmas catalogs. Wards, Penneys, whoever...we treasured them the way I imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder treasured a new book in the town library or something. Forget the clothes, forget the auto parts and furniture and towels, we found that index right away (the cover always said "index on page whatever" to help us get there ASAP) and went zooming straight to the toy section.

I don't know about you, but I read through the entire toy section every holiday season. Multiple times. I never just stuck to the toys for my age at the moment or the ones recommended for girls. Baby dolls, Barbies, action figures, cars and trucks, microscopes and microphones, chemistry sets, I was intrigued by them all. You could tell what movies were hot (Star Wars!), which trends were taking over (home video game consoles--Atari!) and which franchises were getting reborn (will Strawberry Shortcake ever die?). One of my favorite sections was the make-it-at-home food machine-toy sections. Easy Bake Ovens! Snoopy Sno-Cone Machines! There were others, but we never knew anyone who had them.

I realize today that this fascination may have indirectly led to this site, and our upcoming book. No toy was uninteresting to me, even if only to wonder why someone would covet it.

We dogeared pages in the catalogs, starred items we wanted, circled them, put them on a list. But it didn't, in the end, matter if we got them all, or really, any. The hours spent curled up with the catalog were like a present in itself.

Plaid Stallions has some of the most awesome vintage toy catalogs online if you want to relive those childhood days. There are also some relevant Flickr groups.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Classic Christmas Commercials

Has Christmas become too commerical? Probably. But that doesn't mean we still can't enjoy these, some of our favorite holiday TV commercials.

First is the famous Norelco Santa spot, where Old St. Nick drives around on a razor. Watch out for the internal gear system in that thing, Mr. Claus! (Here's a newer, slicker CG version of the original.)

Next is one that many people continue to list among their all-time top holiday commercials: the Folger's ad where Peter comes home to surprise his family. Here's an interview with Peter himself.

And finally, the Clio-winning McDonald's gift certificates commerical starring a cherubic Corey Feldman. Aaw. He was such a little pumpkin.

All three of these commericals really take us back, sparking a little smile and heartwarming feeling -- and they do it in 60 seconds or less. What are some of your holiday favorites?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Burger King Christmas

Back when Burger King's mascot wasn't nearly as creepy as he is today, the fast-food chain tried to tout the guy as if he was one of the much more sought-after McDonald's gang.

What kid would be thrilled with a pillowy king doll that probably smelled like grilled beef? We're guessing they still have crates and crates of this ill-conceived toy stacked in some Burger King warehouse someplace, Ark of the Covenant-style.

That red-bearded meat monarch couldn't hold a candle to Ronald, Grimace or Hamburglar. Heck, he wasn't even to Mayor McCheese's level. (Maybe it's because we had much more respect for the mayor: he had to win elected office; Burger King was probably born into it.)

Did anybody ask Santa for this chintzy looking thing? "Merry Christmas, Billy. They threw this in the bag when I bought some french fries." Ho, ho, ho...hum.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: The Monkees Go Christmas Tree Shopping

I totally forgot about this holiday episode of "The Monkees." Yep, that's Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick as the kid, Melvin Vandersnoot. Really, is there anything goofier or more fun than this show?

And aren't they about due for another resurgence?

What's your favorite Monkee memory? Mine is when some high school friends and I went to a Monkees concert in the mid-'80s, and we ran into Peter Tork in the parking lot after the show. We asked for his autograph, but he waved us off with a "Nope -- sorry, folks."

Good times.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Salad bars

So talk to us about salad bars. Where was the first one you ever saw? Was it a novelty that only parents explored, or were you one of those healthy kids who were into salad?

I think the first ever salad bar I saw was in ... Burger Chef. Which sounds weird, but then as kids, we weren't going to many real restaurants -- we ate most of our meals at home.

I remember it was a pretty novel thing, and they also had a condiment bar so you could dress up your burger yourself. You were in charge at Burger Chef! It also introduced us to things that our houses never had, whether it was garbanzo beans and sunflower seeds on salads, kinds of dressing that our mom never bought (Russian?), or the sheer novelty of something called a "sneeze guard." I always thought about the results of what would happen if someone DID sneeze and there was NO sneeze guard, because really, once you hear that name, can you think of anything else?

I also remember reading or seeing somewhere (That 70s Show?) a story where the parents in a family went out to a restaurant and the dad made them leave when he discovered the place had a salad bar. No way was he MAKING HIS OWN salad! How times have changed.

Do you remember the first salad bar you saw? What salad toppings and dressings were familiar to you and which ones were way weird?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthday destinations: Farrell's and Shakey's

So yesterday was my birthday, and it got me thinking about the birthday destinations of our youth. We didn't have Chuck E. Cheese or Showbiz Pizza, I was a little too old for them--video games came in when I was a little old to have a party out. No, the two I remember most were Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Shakey's Pizza. (Oh, and sometimes people had parties at McDonald's--remember those? With GALLONS of that orange drink only they have, and Grimace plastic-bag hand puppets for everyone?)

Farrell's (warning: link has annoying music) was my favorite, since I like ice cream more than I like pizza. Here's their history: The first one opened in 1963 in Oregon, but they were everywhere by the early 1970s, just as I was starting to have birthday parties.

It's supposed to look like an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, with striped shirts on the employees and those goofy straw hats. The menu looked like a vintage newspaper and they had jars of penny candy.

The big treat, however, was The Zoo. It's like 40 scoops of ice cream (and a bunch of plastic animals, I think, which inspired the name?) and they bring it out on a stretcher with accompanying fanfare--sirens, drums, the staff running it out. I have no idea how much it cost when we were kids, but this blogger went to a Farrell's recently and it's $50!

You could certainly make a Zoo at home for a ton cheaper, but it's the experience, dammit. And Farrell's are expanding--they even have a Facebook fan page--so one might be coming to a mall near you. Rob and I laugh every time we go past what obviously was a Farrell's in L.A., and whoever bought it just turned the F into a B and renamed it "Barrell's.)

Shakey's was a big birthday party place, too. And they also had that turn-of-the-century feel, with banjo and employees in red striped shirts and hats. When we were kids, chain pizza places were a lot more rare than they are now, so going out for pizza was quite novel, and Shakey's party atmosphere made a lot of us grow up associating pizza with parties.

There are apparently 400 Shakey's globally, but less than a quarter are in the U.S., or so saith Wikipedia. It's also interesting to me that Shakey's was named for the founder's malaria-caused nerve damage, which I guess made him shake.

Where did you go for your childhood parties, whether yours or a friend's?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

7-Up Gold

How did I manage to miss the entire (brief) life of 7-Up Gold? Apparently it was a cinnamony (!) ginger version of 7-Up, that was born and died quckly back in 1988.

Thanks for the link, Jeff! I love failed food products.

These are a few of my favorite things

It's my birthday today, and so I've decided to make today's post a list of five of my favorite things about the 1970s and 1980s. I have many, many more favorites, but somehow these always come to mind when I think about the decade.

1) Marathon bars, 1973-1981. Braided chocolate and caramel and a ruler on the back. Who didn't love it? Wash it down with a Pepsi Light and you're in retro heaven.

2) "Facts of Life," 1979-1988. I went to an all-girls high school and we never saw schools like ours on TV. I especially loved the later years, when they ran Over Our Heads and Edna's Edibles. Although I would like to punch that Pippa right in the mouth.

3) Mighty Men and Monster Maker, 1978. Bless my mom's gender-neutral heart, she didn't say one thing when she got me Fashion Plates instead and I asked her to exchange it for this. I was always a story-maker-upper, and half-men, half-monster creatures were much more conducive to my imagination than bland blondes playing dress-up.

4) "Grease," 1978. Who can't sing every word of every song in that movie? Ah got chills, they're mul-ti-plyin'. I still think "Summer Nights" is the best karaoke song on earth. Wella wella wella UNH!

5) "Charlie's Angels" trading cards. I was not a big collector, but I loved these, and spent hours sorting and organizing them. Never was into trading, and I never put together the big puzzle on the back either. But I bought a bunch of old ones recently and I swear there wasn't a photo in them that I didn't remember.
What would be on your top five list?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kenner Tree Tops Tree House

My niece and I are almost the same age (10 months apart, and our daughters are also 10 months apart), and when we were little, we played with the Kenner Tree Tops Tree House a lot.

It had a rounded tree-shaped two-level house that you pulled open at the top, little people (not Weebles, though I always associate it with Weebles -- they had their own tree house) and best of all, a tiny bush that was the dog house!

It is apparently being made in a new version in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as one of the videos below attests. It's called the Magic Klorofil tree house -- no, really! Sadly, they won't ship overseas. (Someone is trying to sell one on eBay for $300 last I checked--no thanks!)

Thankfully, my sister kept hers, and now my niece and I can bring our kids over to play with the same exact toy we played with as kids. Did you have one?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Pop-o-matic Trouble

Why was Pop-o-matic Trouble so cool to me as a kid? I can only assume they shoved the dice under a little mini-version of Stephen King's "Under the Dome" because they knew kids lost dice, or put them up their nose, or ate them. But somehow, pressing on the plastic top rather than shaking the dice was MUCH cooler.

Wikipedia points out that two other Milton Bradley games, Headache and Frustration, also utilized Pop-o-Matic, uh, "technology," but they never were as popular as Trouble.

I don't remember Trouble being a very fun game though, do you? I mean, I guess you got to land on someone's spot and then send them back, but lots of games had a variation of that. But, it had POP-O-MATIC MAGIC!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Six Million Dollar Contest Results

Thanks to everyone who entered our first-ever contest. We appreciate all the '70s and '80s memories you shared.

Our grand prize winner is Thomas Hunt. He'll be receiving the awesome 40-DVD box set of every "Six Million Dollar Man" episode, plus all the TV movies and a bunch of great extras. Plus, the box makes the doot-doot-doot bionic sound, which is icing on the cake.

Jenn Beck and Carole Donald are our runners up. We'll be sending them DVDs of the first season of the show.

Thanks again to the folks at Time Life, who provided the prizes. Check out for more info on this great DVD release.

We'll be doing another contest soon -- stay tuned!

Funky Food Friday: Original Taco Doritos

(Updated: Awesome image courtesy Jason Liebig, check it out here.He has a great vintage photo archive that you'll love.)

Yes, there are eight zillion kinds of Doritos out there, and they often use Taco in their name. We even hear Frito-Lay will be releasing a limited-edition throwback Taco flavor this month.

Whatever. It's NOT THE SAME. We've tried all their taco variations and none have ever been the same as the original version. (No, "Tacos at Midnight" is NOT the same.)

According to Wikipedia, Doritos came out in 1964, and Taco was their second flavor ever, right after Toasted Corn and EVEN BEFORE NACHO CHEESE.

People all over are still mourning the damn things, even comedian Michael Ian Black. (Oh, and me.)

I suspect Doritos HQ actually lost the original recipe -- we were kind of a disorganized country in the 1960s and 1970s -- and just can't admit it, so they keep reissuing flavors with "taco" in the name and acting like they don't know any different.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Born Free"

Not many movies can make me cry, but "Born Free"? Damn, that turns on the waterworks. The song doesn't help, either.

The movie is supposedly one of President Obama's favorites, too, and he admitted to welling up while watching it as a child when Elsa, the lion raised by George and Joy Adamson, is released back into the wild. Don't tell me you don't get a lump in your throat when she lopes after their Jeep, all "why are you leaving me?"

Anyway, mark your calendars now: On Jan. 9, 2011, PBS will show "Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story," about the Adamsons and the making of the film. PBS says "The program is a tribute to Elsa the lioness, probably the first environmental icon, who died nearly 50 years ago (Jan 24, 1961.)"

You can watch the whole movie on YouTube, Do your tear ducts need some exercise? Here's part one:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Now that Christmas is just a few weeks away, you've probably heard "Do They Know It's Christmas?" for the umpteen-millionth time. I know I have. Sure, it gets to be a bit much, but I think the thing, by super-group Band Aid, still holds up.

And regardless of what you think of the song itself, you've gotta tip your hat to the good it did: It raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia in 1984, and was the centerpiece of Live Aid, the worldwide concert event the next year.

However, it seems like it reeeally gets on the nerves of the guy who wrote it, former Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof.

"Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing," he told Australia's Daily Telegraph last week. "Every f----ing Christmas."

Geldof calls the holiday tune one of "the two worst songs in history." The other? "We Are the World," a song that was no doubt inspired by Geldof's effort.

Geldof may have a point,at least about "We Are the World": In an interview with Rolling Stone, Billy Joel reminisced: "Most of us who were there didn't like the song, but nobody would say so. I think Cyndi Lauper leaned over to me and said, 'It sounds like a Pepsi commercial.' And I didn't disagree."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Yesterday's post about Marc Singer returning to "V" got us thinking about the actor's even bigger claim to fame: his pec-y portrayal of Dar in the ubiquitous Conan-like flick "The Beastmaster."

Dennis Miller used to joke that the 1982 movie was on TV so much, HBO actually stood for "Hey, Beastmaster's On." And it was, but for good reason: How can you go wrong with a sword-and-sorcery flick starring Singer, "Good Times'" John Amos and a nuded-up Tanya Roberts, ferrets named Kodo and Podo, plus scenery-chewing Rip Torn as the villain?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: "V"

I had high hopes, but ABC's revamp of "V," the 1983 miniseries-then-series about an alien invasion, isn't really doing it for me.

The original, though? Awesome. Could it have been more custom-made for a 15-year-old boy? Intrigue! Lizard people! Half-lizard babies! A pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund! Nazi-Germany allegory!

But the best moment was the one people are still talking about today: When Jane Badler's Diana unhinged her jaw and swallowed a guinea pig. Gross-out and cringe-inducing? Sure. But it also was the big reveal, and carried with it an ominous meaning: There was more to these Visitors than we thought. If you haven't seen it, please do (it's below).

Beat that, 2011 "V." Actually, maybe they can. Now, there's word that the new series is serving up a delicious piece of '80s ham: original star Marc Singer. (They'd already announced a move to bring back Jane Badler.)

If Singer and Badler can reignite some of that '80s sci-fi cheesiness that made the original must-see TV, count me in as a viewer. If not, well, thank goodness for YouTube.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Micro Magic Fries, Burgers and Shakes

Microwaves were cool when we first got them, but the novelty wore off damn fast. They had almost settled down into the life of another boring mom appliance when out of nowhere came the red-packaged Micro Magic line.

Mostly, we remember the fries. They cooked right in the carton (and tasted a little cardboardy, but don't question technology!) and it was a big thrill to be able to have french fries at home without having to turn on the oven and wait for-freaking-ever.

There were burgers too, but the coolest item on the Micro Magic agenda was their MILKSHAKES. Yes, you put the milkshakes in the micro--hear me out. They arrived pretty solidly frozen, and a whir round in the Amana melted them just enough to get them to icy beverage perfection.

Matt from X-Entertainment remembers the Micro Magic fries well, and even has the encouraging word that they may be still available in Japan. Damn Japan. Green-tea Kit Kats, whiskey vending machines, Micro Magic. They get all the good stuff.
I cannot BELIEVE YouTube had a commercial for these. Bless you, YouTube. Anyone else remember these treats?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gym, a.k.a. PE, Phy Ed, or even .... Phys Ed?

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who loved gym, and those who still shudder at the thought. You know which one you are, don't tell me you don't.

Gym was one of those classes we had every day, if I remember correctly. And while we sometimes called it "P.E." or "phy ed," we NEVER NEVER called it "phys ed." Fizz Ed? Who's he? (Yeah, I know, like Fi Ed made a lot more sense?)

Grade school gym was OK. I liked kickball, and sometimes we played Red Rover or with parachutes. (Also, when I went to Catholic school, I remember us always being completely freaked that the ball was going to break one of the church's elaborate saint-centered stained-glass windows, though it never did). I haaaaaated running. The 600-yard dash was torture. (Was this only a Midwest thing? Someone online comments on what a weird distance it was.)

High school gym for me wasn't terrible because I went to an all-girls school, and there just wasn't the major pressure I think there might have been at a co-ed school. Mostly we just stood around (volleyball, softball, I don't remember playing basketball) and hoped the ball wouldn't come our way, or moved around so we looked like we were getting some exercise and hoped the teacher wouldn't call us out. We didn't have a pool or a fancy gym--our gym was uber-basic and also contained the theater stage, which limited our moving-around space. And in Minnesota, there wasn't a lot of time when you could have gym outdoors.

We were given matching gym shirts and shorts in high school, but seriously, the amount of sweating we did in gym was so minimal that absolutely zero of us took showers after gym, and I can't even remember if we took our gym clothes home often to get washed. I'd say we must have smelled horrible, but we didn't sweat a lot, so it's more than possible we didn't. It was the 1980s! We weren't very smart about things!

I vaguely remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, which apparently was changed to be called the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. I would say I'm sure I never qualified for one, except that I think I HAVE one somewhere in a box of school crap, so maybe I did.

No question that society as a whole is much more attuned to being fit and eating properly and all that stuff, and I imagine gym class is much better today than it was in the 1970s and '80s. I learned to like gym in college, when I could pick the electives I wanted (swimming!). But I imagine even if it is a more useful class today, it still stars in people's nightmares.

What are your gym class memories? What weird games/sports did your school play? Did you have gym suits? (We never called them that!) Did you win a Presidential Physical Fitness Award? And what did you call it -- gym, PE, phy ed, phys ed, none of the above?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Man, I was terrible at Spirograph (still available today!), but I loved it anyway. Raise your hand if you ripped the paper every time.

Also, if you really want to see a Wikipedia entry that goes off the rails, check out the equations in the Spirograph entry. Somehow they do not help me improve my Spirograph skills one bit.

Here's a fun blog entry where the writer remembers not just Spirograph, but plenty of other toys. She even remembers a variation I must have blocked out -- Spirofoil, saying "After I got bored with Spirograph, I moved on to Spirofoil. Just replaced the paper with thin sheets of aluminum that were incredibly sharp. The final result was colorful, though hardly the prettiest things in the world, but boy could they cut and shape wallpaper in a pinch."

Anyway, this is the trippiest, most 1970s toy commercial around. SPIRO MANIA!